Karl Kim Connell
An English professor, writer and friend died at the age of 44. He was a writer, teacher and poet. An avid fly fisherman who tied his own flies. Born on April 20, 1953. He became a Fulbright Scholar in Belgium 1981-82. Kim Died from a heroin overdose in 1997, found slumped at his computer in New York City. Kim built his own cabln and house in the Catskill Mountains, New York. He loved fly fishing, hunting and isolating. He was a writer.
He was a Hippie. He was diagnosed with Depression. He was an Alcoholic. His addiction was never treated with total abstinence. I gave Kim the book Narcotics Anonymous in 1986. His alcoholism grew to heroin addiction in the late ’80’s. Kim had 300 acres of pure virgin Catskill mountains with a view that he created by chopping down trees.
He grew Marijuana. We would joke about using Dynamite in the Neversink River and sell all the trout to New York City Restuarants. Kim always asked me when was I going to build my shack in the Catskill Mountains. One of Kim’s prized possessions was this board that had drifted down the stream from the Woodstock festival.
We were always tring to find Kim’s Marijuana plants when we were dry. Kim drove off the road so many times drunk, he was a disgrace in Claryville, NY, the locals would scorn when they saw him. He had lost his driving priviledges many years prior. Kim’s lover of many years, Lynne, reports Kim’s suffering and lifelong battle between the impulse towards light and his rage, confusion and pain. Kim was able to approach his struggle in a novel, ‘The Battlefield of Love,’ which concerns a day in the life of a manic-depressive addict who’s decided to end that day with suicide.
On 4/6/2008, cyndie b wrote: Dear Chris, Thank you so much for the beautiful page you created for Kim Connell on your site – I have been scouring the internet for the past year or so trying to see if I could find the truth of what happened to him with no luck until tonight. – The radiant smile on his face, sitting in front of the cabin only makes the loss of this sad and wonderful man even sadder.
Kim was my boyfriend during our last couple of years at Antioch, and after we separated he would call me every few years or so – nostalgic and desperately needing to connect, drunk or stoned, and update me on everything that was going on, as best as he could put the words together.
From the time I met him, he was a prince in trouble. His mom, who was lovely and well meaning, was also completely bipolar and alcoholic. As I’m straining my old and fatigued brain, as a matter of fact, I’m suddenly recalling a day at their apartment on 82nd Street when she was taking anabuse and had had a drink and was desperately ill. There was so much chaos in their family, and so little support for someone who so, so much needed strength and love and attention and help.
In 1974-75 neither Kim nor I knew anything particularly useful about bipolar disorder or depression. Now I know all too much, my daughter was diagnosed at 8. Like Kim, she has a radiant, embracing smile and she’s a phenomenally talented writer. If there is a complete posting somewhere of his writing, could you let me know? I’d love to share it with her. Very best always, Cyndie
Thanks Chris, you are welcome to add my note to the page. I wish I could be more articulate or say more, but I can’t. Although I do have a very funny story about the cabin, because in 1975 there was only a platform of sorts, no cabin. But when I have a bit more energy, I’ll try to write.
Patricia H writes: I knew Kim in NY in the mid/late eighties. I lived on St. Marks. We hung out. We drank, we didn’t drink. He told me that AA was the better program, but the girls were cuter in NA. Then he changed his mind and said that girls got skinnier after they quit drinking, but fatter when they gave up drugs. The he changed back. No, the girls were cuter in NA. I always wondered what happened to him, I knew how it was, and if he lived. Now I know. I was eight years sober when he died. I stayed in that cabin and watched him fly fish naked, only his boots on.
He shot a duck from the front stoop, plucked it and we had it for dinner. I’ve been sober fifteen years now and I’m sad tonight. I’d forgotten how happy he could be. I hadn’t thought of him in years, strange. It was around ’86 or there abouts. We just hung out for a time. I could swear I remember him speaking of you. You and NA. Last night as I lay in bed, my husband sleeping restlessly beside me, I remembered a thousand things: stealing beet greens from Kim’s grandmother’s garden down the road, the pot plants, the apartment across from Tompkins square, him running in the East Village in his short shorts, how his mother died.
And his short story about riding his motorcycle in Africa or something.
The novel, I think, with the imagery of cemetary markers falling like dominoes…
Or maybe they’re the same work. I have that story here somewhere packed away with my drunken years. Tokens of good things slipped in between misery. Thanks for I’m not sure what. Remembering, perhaps. Time traveling is more like it. It has more the feel of breath than simple memory. While sleep eluded me last night, I starting listing all the the people I had lost, who were alive in 86’ and still tearing it up. Tony died of cocaine induced heart attack, 28 years old. Walter jumped off a building, he was a violinist. Chris, heroin, left a young, beautiful son behind who’s now a lovely man. He was my highschool sweetheart…Dougie, AIDS, didn’t want anyone to know he was gay. Francey died sober in a plane crash – she was a child in 86 ‘
Laura gave up coke in the eighties to die of ALS only a few years later … I’ll have to make my own site. These memories are strange, good company. I’ll spend the day wrapped in this sweet blanket of warm sorrow … What a mystery it is to have survived when other good men have up and died … Recovery’s a strange bird, is she not? Good luck in all endeavors.
Lynne writes: One of the most essential & beautiful things about Kim was his enormous generosity & wealth of spirit in sharing the blessings he was given. The cabin & land were absolutely open to literally hundreds of people .. especially, in later years, people beginning recovery or in early recovery who desired a refuge, a reminder of the reasons for living, an experience of peace in a beautiful environment & an opportunity to contribute a little sweat to the general chores, which was helpful to everyone. Some stayed for weeks or months. Kim offered what he felt best able to offer with a pure, though imperfect, human heart.
We realized what a difference the change in environment & the mountains’ serenity could make even in a matter of days; this was our refuge also. This is how the cabin & land became so special a place for so many people. Kim shared the wealth in as righteous a way as he was able. Really, I think any elegy to his memory should include this. With the picture of a typical, self-centered addict
many will hold of him in their minds, this might make the true person a bit clearer.
He was enormously compassionate & openly generous with his blessings, even in his own incredible struggle. Those who think of him with love know this.
Hey there Chris, Thought you’d be interested in seeing these, as the mental image you have of our space here & how it’s represented at your site – the tiny crooked shack on the hill – would most definitely be corrected for you by KC himself. He was exceptionally proud of what he was able to accomplish here over the years with the help of a few friends & three essential books — with very good reason, in my opinion. Most of what we did on the final addition came out of his head. Unfortunately I don’t have a scanner, but these give you an idea of the cabin’s evolution before his death in ’97. I have many photos of the construction as it took place, generally taken by me. That’s Kim on the porch in the second one, just after we finished the siding. The cabin now stands as it was, with few alterations.
Just fyi, the Africa/motorcycle piece Patricia mentions in her note is ‘Mopeding Through the Sahara To Timbuktu’, a truly beautiful travel essay published in ’81, I believe. Among Kim’s lovers in ’86 was a very close friend of mine; she was utterly taken with him & she showed me the piece. This was my first direct awareness of him & I found it stunning. I don’t know if anything he wrote afterward matched it for sensitive & evocative imagery. Lynne
Date: Apr 6, 2006 2:27 PM: Chris, Thank you for responding. I , too, have struggled with addiction through my life, though I got clean in the mid-eighties. I get that you were friends with Kim and his family. Again, do you run a rehab( intervention.org)? and how do the arts and photography figure into it. I find myself looking at Kim’s pictures and remembering how reckless we were in high school with drugs, mostly pot and LSD. But I also recall all the details of our love affair and feel nothing but love and sadness for this loss. I remember thinking he looked like an adonis when we met, and he still did in your pictures. What year did he die, Chris, and where did he live when it happened? Thank you for getting back to me Vicki
Wow, Chris. How sad. I did get an e-mail from Lynne, and thank you for that. My story has a happy ending and I am 100% clean and have been since the mid-eighties. The story is a long one but my drugs of choice were quaaludes and coke. Pot use was constant. A wonderful organization in Los Angeles called Do-it-Now helped me to kick drugs for good. I also gave up cigarettes, my last addiction. I am married for 15 years and have 2 girls, 11 and 14. Due to an anxiety disorder I have had over the last seven years following a major thyroid disease, I do take an anti-anxiety/anti-depressant,(lexapro) which helps to a certain degree to manage things. Maybe that would have helped Kim. Thanks for all your info and good will. Your photos are wonderful. Vicki
First and foremost: despite his shortcomings and his suffering, Kim was a writer, with an incredible command of discipline (as is necessary with that pursuit) that persisted regardless of his personal condition. I don’t believe I’ll ever know anyone as thoroughly dedicated to the process of his creative work. In all of the 11 years I knew him, unless he was physically incapable, Kim spent a number of hours each day writing. This was generally in the earliest hours of the morning. His energy in dedication to his work was phenomenal. He was definitely a writer first. It gave his life purpose & substance.
Yes, he was a manic depressive, having suffered this imbalance since about age 17, though it wasn’t immediately diagnosed. He suffered with manic depression for over two decades. As sometimes happens, the intensity of the illness diminished after he reached 40; by the time of his death he was no longer experiencing manic depressive episodes. He’s someone for whom the generally prescribed medications were useless — which also sometimes happens — and so the scope and effects of the illness, while he experienced it, were fairly harrowing.
Basically, he had to plan for their occurance, which decades of experience taught him would occur every 18 months, like clockwork. He was institutionalized once at the beginning of our relationship; I believe he’d been hospitalized once before, in his youth. When the illness finally abated on its own it was truly miraculous.
He continued suffering depressed states, but not with the destructive potential of mania. His use of drugs both legal & illegal was a means of mitigating his tremendous emotional difficulties, which is true for many addicts, myself included.
Kim’s introduction to heroin among other drugs occurred fairly late in his addiction career; this was in about 1990 or ’91. We’d taken to using pharmaceutical painkillers to mitigate the effects of cocaine, which we were using very heavily (as well as dealing), then we began using the painkillers by themselves too. The pharmaceuticals were very expensive; we found that heroin provided more ‘bang for the buck’, so to speak. At least initially. Yes, both Kim & I were born in NYC, though seven years apart.
In 1986 he was seeing a close girlfriend of mine, along with four or five other women, on a regular basis. I didn’t meet him until we arranged a cocaine sale between us (I was buying), though I’d seen some of his writing work & was very impressed by it. The deal was strictly business, but a sexual relationship developed soon after & then became more than that. He gradually dropped the other women from his life & invited me to live with him in 1988. We lived together, with periodic seperations, until his death in ’97. When he died I was away, but was set to return again that week. We had plans to travel to India to greet the new millenium.
We lived on West 12th Street in NYC. He’d grown up in the east 80s, but after his mother’s death in, I believe, about 1982 he exchanged their apartment for the one downtown. His mother died of alcohol related illness. Kim & his brother Ladd received a sizeable bequest, with which they made investments in the neighborhood of the East Village, which was still rather low-rent but primed for speculation. They made a good deal of money from those investments fairly quickly. At the time of his death Kim still owned three apartments there, which were then sold.
Aside of that, he taught English and writing as a university instructor on an adjunct basis, teaching at various New York area colleges. His manic depression had prevented him from achieving the full college degree required for tenure, which remained a source of bitterness to him. Adjuncts have little job security & few benefits, being ‘part timers’; in later years he worked as an advocate for fair treatment of part-time university faculty.
The proceeds from the East Village investments eventually enabled us to build the sizeable cabin you’ve probably seen at Chris’ site. After Kim’s death his portion of his family’s Catskills land was sold. I’m now renting from the current landowner. By the time I met Kim, he was only in sporadic contact with his high school friends, though he sometimes mentioned them.
Yes, Kim fathered a daughter while on teaching assignment in Albany after college; he had no relationship to speak of with the girl’s mother, but continued supporting the child until his death, when she became the beneficiary of a substantial life insurance policy. Kim’s family didn’t accept the girl as one of their own until shortly before his death; she’s now welcome at all family functions & celebrations. I believe she’s set to start college soon, if she hasn’t started already. Her mother didn’t allow her to visit with us as she was growing up, though Kim made repeated requests. Now, of course, it’s far too late for her to get to know him.
Your vision of his ‘winding up in Vermont’ to write is probably very similar to what actually happened, in terms of our homestead here: the area is beautiful, rural & quiet, perfectly serene & good for creative work. Of course, this land belonged to the family; this is where he grew up & this is where he was meant to make his homestead, not Vermont. Part of the reason why I think he chose me, rather than the other women he was involved with when we met, is that after bringing me up here he saw that I loved it here; I had no problem with ‘roughing it’ on occasion, nor doing the type of outdoor work essential here. I still remain the same, which is why I’m still here — though the landscape has changed enormously with the sale of his land. The family is gradually selling off all their land holdings, as family members age and die.
After our initial meeting (and subsequent sexual adventures) Kim and I developed an incredibly strong & intense love which, being as it was between two very troubled people, also caused us a good deal of pain. Ultimately, though — as Kim put it very shortly before his death — we were soul-mates, in the purest sense. When you’ve met your soul-mate, I’ve found, nothing can break that connection, despite the trials that destroy other relationships. ‘Soul-mates’ have a relationship unlike any other; the connection endures despite whatever takes place between you. We both had other relationships throughout our 11 years, but ours lasted throughout.
Yes, we were both addictive types, with a long history of this kind of behavior even before we met. Together, our addictions intensified; the burden each of us carried, I think, was made twice as heavy. We tried to get clean, using any manner of the usual methods; we were hospitalized, we detoxed, we relapsed; we enjoyed ourselves, we didn’t, we blamed one another, we fell apart, we escaped each other. We came back together. It’s a very, very rough road to travel.
In terms of our heroin use, I’d say that I was the more conventional ‘junkie’, dropping my pretentions toward normality much more quickly than Kim did. He had a teaching career to maintain; I didn’t have much of anything like that. To his credit, despite my influence, he didn’t pick up the needle more than a few times; generally, when he did, I had to shoot him up. He generally snorted the drug & did so even after I found the needle the best method; weirdly enough, this was the source of conflict with us, as he somehow considered snorting the drug not so bad.
Go figure. Eventually, however, during my last absence from NY he apparently learned to shoot up, as I found a set of works in his dresser when I cleaned the place out after his death. I never saw him do it, though; I’m not sure if it was a shot that killed him, though he did overdose once, a few years earlier, after I shot him up. He never overdosed while snorting & I didn’t either, only with the needle. I brought him out of the earlier one; if he hadn’t been alone that last time, he might still be with us today.
About me: after his death I went into a terrific spiral downward in terms of my own heroin addiction. I finally cleaned up two years later, in ’99 & remain clean today. I haven’t been to Chris’ site recently & so I’m not sure where my writing is; I’m not sure about the picture you mention either. I’ll go see & let you know. Thanks again for writing. I’m happy to share what I know about our dear friend. Sincerely, L
From: dr. temi rose
Date: Mon, Jun 21, 2010 at 10:58 AM
Subject: kim connell
kim connell was the first boy i ever french kissed with. he was vastly more experienced and a wild child already at 14. i was in love with him but he was a bad boy and got sent away to boarding school for years. he was always passionate beyond what our ages and situations could hold.
I broke up with him because he was already a drug and alcohol over doer and when he was really high, he scared me with the intensity of his sadness. he came back to the city (manhattan) in time to be the second boy i ever had sex with… and we had one more round of love in 1980 and then we had exhausted each other’s patience. and this is the first news i have of him since then. i have a lot of dead friends, not all addicts but all amazingly heroic figures in my heart/mind. i’m not sure how it changes me to know that kim is gone.
I guess i feel better about all the scoldings i gave him over the years and yet worse because scolding doesn’t do much for an addict. i have always dreamt about him and all our outdoor adventures, there was so much beauty in being with him. i never went camping with anyone else, they never lived up to his way with and in nature. we had sex in all sorts of wonderful places in nature. his grandmother taught me how to weed her garden, she thought i would enjoy being useful, how true that is of me. and maybe weeding saved my life in some very concrete as well as metaphorical ways. i remember so many things and the memories fall into distinct categories: escape into nature, amazing sex, terrible battles over lifestyle.
I feel privileged now rather than frustrated i think i was still angry at him for not pushing the drugs away harder but i understand more now about how hard life is and i can feel how he is in the roots of me and always will be and how very much love he gave and allowed himself to receive and how rare that is, how very rare. So i want to thank you for putting up the stories and the pictures; it’s a very healing thing to do; i appreciate it very much. thank you. (if i find any pictures, i’ll send them in.)
temi (brodkey) rose
dr. temi rose